Statement By Fm Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu At Pace On 12 October 2016 , 17.10.2016
Mr ÇAVUŞOĞLU (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey)
* – Thank you, Mr President. Mr Secretary General, dear members, it is a great pleasure to be with you today.
Mr President, I extend to you my deepest gratitude for your kind invitation. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – I take pride in being its Honorary President – has been a school for me, as it has been for most members. I learned a lot here. We had heated discussions in committees and group meetings, but we also managed to agree with and understand each over a cup of tea or coffee. We have a saying in Turkish: one remembers a shared cup of coffee for 40 years. It looks like we will remember each other for thousands of years. We have made very important decisions and resolutions together, and we have tried to find answers to what more we can do for our people. I have made many valuable friends here, and it is a great pleasure to see most of them here today.
The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly continued to be important to me after I became Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey. Since my time as President of the Parliamentary Assembly, I have been familiar with the budgetary issues of this Organisation. Since taking office as a minister, one of my priorities has been to increase our contribution to the budget of the Council of Europe. Turkey is now a grand power and is contributing to the work of the Parliamentary Assembly with more members. As a result, Turkish has become one of the working languages of the Parliamentary Assembly.
It is not only me who has benefited from the Council of Europe; my country has benefited, too. The Council of Europe has had a significant role in Turkey’s progress in the past 15 years. In 2003, when I first came to the Parliamentary Assembly as an MP, Turkey was under the monitoring process. We had many shortcomings in many areas, but as a government we were resolute and determined. With the contribution of the Council of Europe’s recommendations and proposals, we managed to get through the monitoring process in a year. I remember that the leaders of the political groups said in discussions at the time that they had been prejudiced against the government, but that the pace of the reforms had been head-spinning, and they apologised.
After the monitoring process, we were determined to fulfil the recommendations. We have enlarged the scope of constitutional rights and introduced mechanisms to protect those rights. Today, everyone enjoys the right to make individual applications to the Turkish constitutional court. We have established the ombudsman office. Thanks to democratisation packages, we have made it easier for political parties to set up local organisations. We made it possible for private schools to educate people in languages and dialects other than Turkish. We have enlarged the scope of discrimination law. We have become a party to the revised Social Charter of the Council of Europe. Becoming party to more and more of the Council of Europe’s conventions and protocols has been one of the most important pillars of our reform efforts. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am personally following up on that issue.
Turkey is among the countries that have become party to the highest number of Council of Europe conventions. In short, we have reinforced democracy and the rule of law. While fulfilling the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly, we have completed the first benchmark for unopened chapters in the European Union negotiation process.
When we look at what is going on in Europe and around Europe, we see threats against the Council of Europe’s fundamental values and reconciliatory culture. Racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity are on the rise in the world and in Europe. Our common values are being shaken to the core by people who are against all who are different. In such an environment, we need the experience and expertise of the Council of Europe all the more. When I was the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, I prioritised reinforcing our understanding of how we live together and dialogue across cultures and religions. In April 2011, representatives of five different religions came together here and offered a message of tolerance. Unfortunately, I regret to say that that message was not followed.
The culture of living together with other people is being weakened and alienation is on the rise. Alienation causes radicalisation, and radicalisation triggers terrorism. Turkey has been fighting all forms of terrorism for years, and the bloodiest form of terrorism was experienced in Turkey on the night of 15 July. It began as a fine summer night, and nobody would have imagined that a coup would be attempted. The members of the Fethullah terrorist organisation targeted our constitutional order, all our elected authorities and our democratic organisations with their treacherous attempted coup. They tried to overthrow our president and government, and fighter jets bombed our parliament. If the terrorists had succeeded, the Turkish MPs who are here today would not be here. Turkish people were run over by tanks, fired on and were bombed. They were massacred, but our brave people made history and stopped the attempted coup. I honour the memory of our martyrs with gratitude.
We have put aside all our differences from that night and have staked a claim on our democracy and the future of our country. We have the same determination today. In Istanbul, 5 million citizens came together at the Yenikapı rally for democracy. There was a historic meeting with the leaders of opposition parties. Through the rally, we sent a message of unity and togetherness to the enemies of democracy. We are taking all the necessary measures to avoid a similar coup happening in the future. We have declared a state of emergency based on our constitution to eliminate this threat, which was aimed at the very existence of our people, the continuity of our state and our common values.
I want to emphasise one thing here: before the attempted coup, even when there were intensive terrorist attacks from the PKK, PYD, YPG and Daesh, we did not declare a state of emergency. We avoided doing that. More than 80% of our people support the state of emergency, and we had no other option in the face of this alliance of evil. We have to do whatever is necessary to clear the FETÖ elements from our state institutions and elsewhere where they have infiltrated. While fighting against this organisation, we act within the boundaries of the rule of law. We act in line with our international obligations, which mainly stem from the European Convention on Human Rights.
In that process, we continue to work in close co-operation with the Council of Europe. The first European leader to visit Turkey following 15 July was Secretary General Jagland. Right after his visit, Ms Kaljurand and President Agramunt visited Turkey. I express my gratitude to them. They have been excellent examples of solidarity and co-operation. Evidently, they ask questions and voice any concerns they have, and we told them what happened in all sincerity. We responded to their questions.
The first international organisation I visited after the coup attempt was the Council of Europe. I addressed the Committee of Ministers on 7 October and responded to some of the questions. Following the coup attempt, Turkey started to work in even closer co-operation with the Council of Europe. The Commissioner for Human Rights visited Turkey, as did representatives of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. The Venice Commission is also working in close contact with us. We also have technical dialogue with experts from the Council of Europe. They visited Ankara, and our experts visited the Council of Europe. We inform the Council of Europe about all the steps we take, and we put special emphasis on transparency in the process. We take all recommendations to heart and try to take steps while considering such recommendations. We are always for more dialogue and co-operation. Turkey never compromises on its reforming initiatives. We continue to reform our constitution with the contribution of all political parties. We want to ensure that the reforms become more institutional and we want to strengthen civil democracy. We will continue to take into consideration the recommendations of the Council of Europe.
In this difficult process, we had support from many friends, but there were people who did not, or did not want to, understand the severity of the problem we faced. After visiting Ankara, they sincerely said that they had no idea how serious the situation was. We wanted to ensure that they all came to Istanbul and Ankara to see exactly what happened. We wanted to tell them that the terrorists violated the rights of the 241 people whom they massacred. We wanted them to hear the pain and suffering of our citizens. More than 2,000 people were injured, including people crushed under tanks and people who lost their organs. After visiting Turkey, many better understood the reality of the coup attempt and the real face of the Fethullah terrorist organisation.
Turkey’s terrorist threat is not one dimensional. Turkey is fighting against the PKK, PYD, YPG, Daesh and FETÖ. All those terrorist organisations threaten our stability, our security and our common values. We will continue to fight against those terrorist organisations, regardless of what their qualities may be. One cannot simply say, “I sympathise with the PKK’s ideology but I do not sympathise with the ideology of Daesh.” They are all evil; they are all terrorist organisations. We must fight against all of them. We should not let the terrorist organisations have absolute control over our fight. We say that Daesh cannot represent Islam. Members of Daesh are terrorists. They are not Muslims; they cannot be Muslims. We will continue to support this line. We must make sure that we topple their ideology so that they do not find new fighters. No country is safe unless all of us are safe.
Today, we all face another test involving the inflow of migrants and refugees. The committees of the Assembly and the Assembly itself put a lot of emphasis on this issue. Turkey is doing more than its fair share. Turkey is the country that hosts the highest number of refugees. We share our food with 2.7 million Syrian brothers and sisters who are fleeing terrorism and persecution. We host 3 million brothers and sisters, and we do our utmost to meet all their needs, including their health and educational needs. However, we must all work together to do more to improve their quality of life. Everyone must do his or her fair share. We must find solutions to the problems that caused millions of people to leave their homes. We must find a permanent solution to issues such as the Syrian problem.
Distinguished parliamentarians, dear friends, the tests that our peoples in Europe face are not limited to these tests only. There are problems that pose a threat to the stability of democracy in Europe, such as those in Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transnistria. We must continue our involvement in the western Balkans, and continue to ensure sustainable peace and development in the region. We hope to see a permanent solution in Cyprus this year. We support the efforts of the leaders on the island. We feel that this is an opportunity that should not be missed.
In the face of all these tests, the role and values of the Council of Europe have become increasingly important. The Council of Europe, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, should continue the reform project to ensure that it can contribute to the solution of these problems. We must overcome our budget problems and create a common vision for the future of Europe. Therefore, we would like to see the realisation of the leaders’ summit that is already on the agenda of the Parliamentary Assembly. Last night I talked to Rapporteur Nicoletti and stated Turkey’s support for the summit. I would like to take this opportunity to state that I am very happy to see the contributions of the Partnership for Democracy. The Council of Europe has monitored democratic elections in Morocco, and I congratulate it on what it did. We see that the Parliamentary Assembly is an institution where common wisdom creates common solutions. We will overcome all these problems based on our common values. Turkey is always ready to do its fair share in this process. Turkey is ready to do whatever it takes. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.